June 10, 2010
No matter how hard you try, you're not going to get Kevin Durant(notes) to admit how good he is. Tell him he's a top-3 player in the league, and he'll say, "that's bold," and then shout-out several other guys he'd rank ahead of himself. Tell him he'll be the biggest draw on this summer's version of Team USA (of which he has been confirmed as a member) and he'll explain how many great players there are around him and that he "won't be the only guy getting attention."
But if you ask Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder forward will gladly tell you what he thinks about being named among the NBA's best players: "I'm not a superstar."
Sorry, Kevin, but you're wrong. You're a superstar, like it or not.
What else would you call a guy who led the NBA in scoring, was named to his first All-Star team, finished second in MVP voting and was chosen as a member of the All-NBA first team? Exactly. You'd call him a superstar, and you'd be right. Then you'd realize that he's only 21 and that the rest of the NBA is in quite a bit of trouble.
When asked what he'd be working on this summer, Durant had just a couple of ideas: "Ball-handling, jump shots, different types of shots, pick and rolls, post-ups, getting in the weight room, everything." Typical summer fun-time stuff, really.
And if you think that sounds too busy for summer, consider that Durant's already done with his vacation. According to the NBA's most likeable young star "two or three weeks after the season I really started to get back in to my schedule, working out, playing pick-up games, watching tape, watching playoff games, watching guys like Kobe Bryant(notes) that I try to emulate. It never really stops for me." That famous work ethic we've heard so much about? Yeah, it's true. And he gets it from a pretty cool place — his mother.
As Durant told a group of reporters at a Nike event in New York City (where he spoke on a number of topics), "I knew she was tired, but she never let me and my brother see it. If she can do that as a job, I can do it for two hours a day." This guy is the best.
No other superstar would thank another player for wearing his signature shoes, but there's Kevin Durant saying "I thank Amar'e [Stoudemire] for that" when asked about the Phoenix Suns big man's preference for the Nike Zoom KD2. No other superstar views the Great Wall of China as "the toughest workout I ever did." No one else in the NBA is picking Russell Westbrook(notes) as their NBA Jam partner, but Durant does with the quickness, ostensibly because he's "the most athletic player in the league," but probably more because Durant values him as a teammate. It's those little things — like being constantly in awe of the NBA, always trying to get better, nurturing teammates — that make Kevin Durant such an important player as the league enters its seventh decade.
Durant, it seems, approaches basketball the way us fans like to think we would — devoted to bettering himself, remaining humble despite clearly dominating and "not [taking] anything for granted because [playing in the NBA] is a dream come true." Kevin Durant loves basketball more than anything besides winning ("I just want to win"), and that's not always the case with young players. Sure, they might be able to do a couple of those things, but it's pretty rare to put all three together.
And while humility and appreciation for his abilities are certainly commendable, it's that pathological commitment to getting better that is the best part of Kevin Durant. He's already killing himself improving all those things mentioned above, and there's a part of him that wants proof that that work is paying off. When asked if he'd rather have a gold medal or an NBA title, Durant surprisingly chose the medal. Then he explained why, "There's only 14 or 15 guys in the whole league who can say ‘I won a gold medal,' there's a lot of guys that can say they won an NBA championship."
It's that slavish devotion to be the best in the world — not just the NBA — that's helped Kevin Durant attain the superstar status he has today. Someday, maybe he'll admit it.
(images via Sneakernews)